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Wen seeks 'model' links with Belgium
2012-09-19 00:20

Beijing is determined to turn its bilateral relations with Belgium into a "model" for its dealings with other European countries, a senior Chinese diplomat has said.

Premier Wen Jiabao is planning to work toward this goal during his visit to Belgium on Thursday, the third visit of his 10-year premiership, said China's Ambassador to Belgium Liao Liqiang.

"The visit, the third during Wen's premiership, will lay a solid foundation for bilateral relations in coming decades and consolidate our relations into a pacemaker of China-EU ties," said Liao, who highly rates Belgium's importance on China's diplomatic chessboard.

On Thursday, Wen is scheduled to hold the 15th China-EU summit with European leaders, deliver speeches at business leaders' forums and hold talks with Belgian Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo.

Wen previously visited Belgium in 2004 and 2010.

His current trip follows Vice-Premier Li Keqiang and State Councilor Liu Yandong's visits in May and April, respectively.

Liao declined to go into detail about Wen's upcoming talks with the Belgian prime minister, but he said Wen will thoroughly review relations over the past 41 years.

Belgium took the lead among industrialized European countries in forging diplomatic ties with China in 1971.

In talks the two leaders will draw a roadmap for future development between China and Belgium, and exchange ideas on China-EU relations, the debt crisis, global and regional concerns, Liao said.

He said Beijing attaches great importance to the political influence and outstanding competitiveness of Belgium, which ranks 21st in terms of economic clout in the world with a population of 11 million.

As "the heart and gateway of Europe", Liao said Belgium has enjoyed its "special status and influence" within the EU and on global stage, and Beijing has long recognized that.

Liao said Belgium is a major "supporter, actor and exporter" of ideas and the brains behind European integration.

It has close links with European powers such as Germany, France and the Britain, and it also hugely benefited from its social and economic development model among Western and Northern European countries.

"It is also an active participant of EU policy coordination and decision-making It is small but competitive and a strong Western European country," said Liao.

He said over the past decades Belgium has placed great strategic importance in developing relations with China.

Belgium was also among the earliest investors in China.

"Among the Western European countries, Belgium was the first to offer governmental loans to China, the first to transfer high-tech applications to China and the first to set up an industrial cooperation fund with China," said Liao.

In 2011, trade volume rose to $29.1 billion, a surge of 31.5 percent compared with 2010. The figure for the year 1971 was only $20 million.

Analysts said Wen's trip is likely to help boost cooperation between China and Belgium in fields including pharmacy, telecommunications and finance.

Analysts also eyed Belgium's special status in the EU. China's exports to the EU dropped by 4.9 percent in the first eight months of this year.

The EU earlier this month launched an anti-dumping investigation into Chinese solar panels, which involves a business volume of $20 billion.

Zhao Junjie, an expert on European studies with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said rising protectionism in Europe is a result of the European debt crisis, which has shadowed bilateral trade. "It is a double-edged sword that will hurt both China and Europe," he said.

China's photovoltaic industry imports raw materials and technology of more than 20 billion euros ($26.14 billion) from Europe every year.

Wen's visit will present a platform for the two sides to solve disputes in an objective way, Zhao added.

The top priority for China and the EU now is to join hands to seek a solution to the current crisis rather than complaining to each other or launching a trade war, said Feng Zhongping, director of the Institute of European Studies at China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations.

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